Types of data

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  • Types of data
    • Primary and secondary sources of data
      • Primary data is information collected by sociologists themselves for their own purposes. These purposes may be to obtain a first-hand 'picture' of a group or society, or to test a hypothesis (an untested theory)
        • Social surveys: these involve asking people questions in a written questionnaire or interview.
        • Participant observation: the sociologist joins in with the activities of the group he or she is studying.
          • A big advantage of using primary data is sociologists may be able to gather precisely the information they need to test there hypothesis.
            • Social surveys: these involve asking people questions in a written questionnaire or interview.
            • Experiments: sociologists rarely use laboratory experiments, but they sometimes use field experiments and the comparative method.
            • However, doing so can often be costly and time consuming.
        • Experiments: sociologists rarely use laboratory experiments, but they sometimes use field experiments and the comparative method.
      • Secondary data is information that has been collected or created by someone else for their own purposes, but which the sociologist can then use.
        • Official statistics: produced by government on a wide range of issues, such as crime, divorce, health and unemployment, as well as other statistics produced by charities, businesses, churches and other organisations.
          • Using secondary data can be a quick and cheap way of doing research, since someone else has already produced the info. However those who produce it may not be interested in the same questions as sociologists, and so secondary sources may not provide exactly the info sociologists may need.
            • Documents: such as letters, diaries, photographs, official reports, novels, newspapers and television broadcasts.
        • Documents: such as letters, diaries, photographs, official reports, novels, newspapers and television broadcasts.
    • Quantitative and Qualitative data
      • Quantitative data:
        • Refers to info in a numeral form. Examples of this data include official statistics on how many girls passed 5 or more GCSE's or on the percentage of marriages ending in divorce.
          • Similarly, information collected by opinion polls and market research surveys often comes in the form of quantitative data.
            • For example, on the proportion of the electorate intending to vote for a particular party or how many people take holiday's abroad.
      • Qualitative data:
        • This gives a feel for what something is like - for example, what it feels like to get good GCSE results, or for one's marriage to end in divorce. Evidence gathered by using participant observation aims to give us a sense of what it feels like to be a member of a particular group.
          • Similarly, in-depth interviews that probe deeply into a person's views can give us an insight into what it is like to be in that person's shows. These methods can provide rich descriptions of people's feelings and experiences.

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